There have been public hugs and smiles between them ever since Bobi Wine entered active politics. Basing on the wave of his music superstar popularity, many people appear to consider Bobi Wine are stronger vote magnet than Besigye, but the old opposition establishment has refused to yield to Bobi Wine. The result has been a cold war within Uganda’s opposition.
Besigye’s base of supporters of politics of protest and defiance and not the ballot dismiss Bobi Wine as a leader without fire in the belly.
“Only Besigye can manage Museveni,” they say whenever the camps tear into each other in the media and other public fora.
The leaders are concerned that the social media fights divide the opposition and allow ruling NRM party to easily win elections. Therefore cooling the embers of opposition division appears to be a fulltime job for the leaders.
In May 2019, Bobi Wine and Besigye again met to iron out the contradictions and show their supporters that even when they disagree, they do not have to fight each other.
That was days after a group of Bobi Wine supporters and youth from the opposition Democratic Party (DP) ganged up to physically attack Besigye at the seat of Buganda’s monarch in Mengo, Kampala. Besigye was rescued by his supporters.
At the time, Besigye and Bobi Wine even signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to cease any form of attack against each other. But this did not hold for the supporters especially on social media who continued exchanging barbs against each other.
Can the alliance work?
Defeating Museveni in an election has proved more difficult the longer he stays in power since 1986.
Now even the most academic politicians say Museveni has weakened institutions to the point where any attempt to defeat him must not be anti-Museveni.
“Anti-Museveni coalitions cannot work,” says Godber Tumushabe, head of the governance think tank; Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, “You need more pro-democracy alliances that are even open to the NRM members.”
Dr. Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a historian at Makerere University, agrees with Tumushabe, arguing that the opposition coalition will not work if its sole aim is to win elections.
“The coalition that will work is the alliance to open political space. Elections organised by Museveni won’t be won by someone else,” he said.
He suggests that the opposition political parties “can cooperate without integrating but with one objective of forcing Museveni to negotiate transition and handing over power. Participating in elections is an event. It should be an instrument for mobilisation for bigger goal which is transition and power space.”
Opposition party leaders do not enjoy the luxury of engaging in such academic pedantry. So they speak fondly of a united front against Museveni.
“We deeply believe that we are stronger when we unite. We have made good progress, and we shall continue that effort right from here.” We say “…whoever is not against us is for us”,” says Democratic Party (DP) president Nobert Mao, who says on his Twitter account that he seeks to lead Uganda into a united, democratic, peaceful and prosperous nation.
“We have always longed to work together as a force and hopefully we see that we can join these energies until the general election,” says Joel Ssenyonyi, spokesman of People Power pressure group.
And the leader of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) party, Maj Gen, Mugisha Muntu says an alliance is the best chance for the opposition to defeat President Museveni. Muntu urges the opposition to not only agree on fronting one presidential candidate but also joint candidates for lower level elections.